A bi-partisan effort has saved Fresno's 144th Fighter Wing from being cut.
The 144th Fighter Wing has been busy fighting off Government budget cuts. “I got a call on a Saturday morning from someone in my office; they were contacted by Colonel Said at the 144th. He was sounding the alarm bell that there was a major threat to operations here,” says Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.
On a tight budget, the government was considering back-filling the 144th wings air defense. It wanted to condense the base and bring in equipment and personnel from other states. “We headed it off but showing it’s not cost effective; it doesn’t make operational sense,” says Major General Baldwin of the 144th Fighter Wing.
When the wing, the city and state representatives caught wind of it, they acted quickly. The efforts are saving over 1,000 jobs and $950 million worth of equipment. It will also ensure national security—the base warding off terrorist attacks off the Pacific. “This base frankly provides not only a central location for the west coast but this space provides tremendous cost savings,” says Fresno (D) Representative Jim Costa.
The bi-partisan efforts won out. The 144th Fighter Wing will not only remain fully intact, it's upgrading and expanding security. “This base is critical because of its importance to national security. It’s strategically located for us to be able to launch what we hope to be F-15’s—to get them in the air quickly in case of a national emergency,” says Fresno (R) Representative Devin Nunes.
21 F-15's will be replacing the old jets; the first fleet comes in August. The expansion is expected to create hundreds of new jobs and the base is already preparing. The wing is building an operations building for pilots and personnel—expanding an important piece of national security that was almost shot down.
The wing is also finishing an environment impact study to clear the F-15's to come to Fresno. They expect it to be complete by summer. The first fleet will arrive in August, training will begin in May.
Christina Lusby Reporting.